Sunday: The Deeds of the Law

Read Romans 3:19-20. What is Paul saying here about the law, about what it does, and about what it does not or cannot do? Why is this point so important for all Christians to understand?

Deeds of the Law

Image © Lars Justinen

Paul is using the term law in its broad sense as the Jew in his day understood it. By the term Torah (the Hebrew word for “law”), a Jew even today thinks particularly of God’s instruction in the first five books of Moses but also more generally in the entire Old Testament. The moral law-plus the amplification of this in the statutes and judgments, as well as the ceremonial precepts-was a part of this instruction. Because of this we may think of the law here as the system of Judaism.

To be under the law means to be under its jurisdiction. The law, however, reveals a person’s shortcomings and guilt before God. The law cannot remove that guilt; what it can do is lead the sinner to seek a remedy for it.

As we apply the book of Romans in our day, when Jewish law is no longer a factor, we think of law particularly in terms of the moral law. This law can’t save us any more than the system of Judaism could save the Jews. To save a sinner is not the moral law’s function. Its function is to reveal God’s character and to show people wherein they fall short of reflecting that character.

Whichever law it is-moral, ceremonial, civil, or all combined-the keeping of any or all in and of itself will not make a person just in God’s sight. In fact, the law never was intended to do that. On the contrary, the law was to point out our shortcomings and lead us to Christ.

The law can no more save us than the symptoms of a disease can cure the disease. The symptoms don’t cure; they point out the need for the cure. That’s how the law functions.

How successful have your efforts in law-keeping been? What should that answer tell you about the futility of trying to be saved by keeping the law?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons